Designing for a Healthier Community

Earlier this year, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects hosted a forum titled Landscape Architects and the Obesity Epidemic.  Tobias Volbert, our resident LA, attended the session and was pleased to feel a strong alignment with our own goal and passion – to help to encourage people to lead more active and healthy lifestyles by creating appealing, multi-generational recreational spaces.

About 65% of Queensland adults or 3.7 million will be overweight or obese by 2020; the total health system cost for obesity in Queensland in 2008 was $0.391 billion. If costs due to productivity and other financial losses are included, the total economic cost of obesity in Queensland was $11.614 billion.  Obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia.  This is not a sustainable future.

We refer back to a healthier community often, and it’s about more than providing fitness trails for adults.  It’s about designing usable, sustainable recreational spaces that consider some simple points –

  • Free Play – encourages children to engage in imaginary play, becoming problem solvers and inspired thinkers.
  • Time, Inspiration and Risk – keeps children in the playspace longer.
  • Diversity of activities stimulates a wider range of children – not everyone just likes swinging.
  • Encouraging interaction with the natural environment – develops an appreciation for the natural environment
  • Considering pet friendly and adult friendly environments – encourages the whole family outdoors, and the social, mental and physical benefits of this are proven to lead to better health.

How we design recreational spaces needs to consider the appeal to ALL users.  Only when we successfully encourage all ages and abilities to the playspace will we see a change in our community’s consideration of an active life outdoors.